Though his first drama production debuted in the Timothy Dwight College dining hall in 1999, David Brind ’00 is taking a much bigger stage this month.
Brind’s new film “Dare,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last January, opened Friday at select theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The film — starring Emmy Rossum of “The Phantom of the Opera” and Zach Gilford of “Friday Night Lights,” alongside industry veterans Sandra Bernhard and Alan Cumming — is a dark movie that focuses on three stereotypical high school students: the good girl, the outsider and the bad boy. Brind, who majored in theater studies and American studies at Yale, went on to earn a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University’s film program. Brind, who wrote and produced “Dare,” talked to the News last week about his time at Yale and the vision that drives his film.
Q: Congratulations on your new movie. Can you tell us what it’s about?
A:“Dare” looks at the last semester of high school through the eyes of three different seniors: Alexa [Emmy Rossum], the good girl; Ben [Ashley Springer], the outsider struggling with his sexuality; and Johnny [Zach Gilford], the popular bad boy. It’s about how they break out of the box they’ve been put in during high school to shake things up a bit before they enter ‘the real world.’ Beneath all of it is a love triangle. The point of the film is to take these ‘types’ you’ve seen in a million high school movies and to unpeel them, break them down.
Q: Why did you choose to explore the sexuality of your characters?
A: [This film] doesn’t shy away from being straightforward and revealing about sexuality — gay, straight and otherwise. It’s not a gay film per se, but it was important for me to portray a character exploring his sexuality in a very raw and honest way, in tandem with other adolescents on different journeys. They’re all sort of struggling with where they’re going. It’s that commonality of emotion that I think serves to break down barriers in society. It was also important for me that the gay character not provide the comic relief; he’s someone who has real sexual desires and questions about his identity.
Q: As a high school-centric movie, how do you think this film appeals to college students?
A: College students have just enough perspective on high school to appreciate the angst from the outside. They were just there. The characters in “Dare” are discovering [their] individuality and sexuality, through [a process] that continues well into college. I think it’s important to look on this with a bit of perspective. And it’s an R-rated film — it’s geared towards a mature audience.
Q: What kind of attention is the film getting?
A: We premiered at Sundance last January in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, as a nominee for the Grand Jury Prize. It was an honor not only to be in the festival but to be in that specific category with major films like “Precious [Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire],” which is already out in theaters.
Q: The film was originally a short. How did it evolve into a full-length feature?
A: I wrote the short at Columbia, and there ended up being a lot of interest. People were really engaged by the characters. As a short, “Dare” played at over 50 film festivals, and now it’s even on DVD, offered through Netflix. I knew it had to become a feature film. I actually wrote the role of the psychiatrist in the movie for Bernhard, a friend of mine. The cast really came together around the script. The actors made significantly less than they would’ve on any other project, so their involvement was just a response to the material; they all jumped at the chance to do it.
Q: Did your Yale experience inspire or influence the script?
A: Yale inspired me to collaborate with my peers and other artists. It’s where I really discovered what it means to share a vision with other creative people. One of the main characters in the film, Courtney, was also inspired by a good friend of mine, [Caroline Duncan ’02], from Yale. She’s now a major costume designer and worked on the set of “Dare” with me. [At Yale] I took a lot of film studies classes and a screenwriting class, but I focused on directing. My classes in directing really taught me how to understand characters and their motivations, from an academic but also a psychological and intuitive perspective. That skill became amazingly useful when trying to create characters with my words on a page.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your Yale experience?
A: I loved Yale. Though I’m sure I wouldn’t have said that when I was there. I did a lot of acting early on and moved into theater directing my junior year. I was also a Dukesman; I did the a cappella thing for two years before I decided to focus on theater. Especially with the Sudler Funds available, you have such independence to tell a story [as a director at Yale]. You’re thrown into the fire, and it’s exciting to be working so closely with actors. I directed my first production, a musical called “Falsettos,” in spring of 1999, and I remember putting the show on in the [Timothy Dwight] dining hall. I’d like to think our production transcended the atmosphere.